Rainy Reads


It’s been raining here in the Hoosier State – a LOT.

Normally, this would be the perfect excuse for me to read a book (or two, or three) but somehow life keeps getting in the way! In any case, I have notched a few more titles lately…

–Marissa

Life Moves Pretty Fast: The Lessons We Learned From Eighties Movies (and Why We Don’t Learn Them From Movies Anymore) by Hadley Freeman was just…superfantastic. Funny, insightful, and filled with references to some of my favorite movies (the author and I are…of a similar age, shall we say), I just enjoyed every page. But, more than that, I learned a lot, and really took a closer look at today’s cinema (since I am DEFINITELY fatigued by the constant barrage of nothing-but-superhero-or-action films). If you were a kid of the 80s – or appreciate the throwback movies that era – this is definitely the book for you!

Before We Visit the Goddess by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is a lovely novel. From the author of The Mistress of Spices (another great read), this is a multi-generational tale of mothers and daughters in an Indian family, and how they are woven together. Told out of chronological order, the reader has to put together the timeline of what brought them close – and what torn them apart. Divakaruni’s writing is lovely and evocative, and this was just such a satisfying read. If you love multicultural women’s fiction, this is a great addition to your TBR stack.

Modern Lovers by Emma Straub is her followup to the smash hit The Vacationers, and is again a glimpse into the marriages – and lives – of couples “of a certain age”, and how they are tied together. Elizabeth and Andrew (married with a son) and Zoe used to be in a band. Zoe and her wife Jane have a daughter – so what happens when the son and daughter begin to see each other? Chaos, mostly. Another sharp look at modern relationships and how we evolve over twenty years of knowing each other.

I also listened to the audio version of Fool Me Once by Harlan Coben. I will say…not one of his strongest works. One dimensional characters, and a pretty clunky plot. Hey, it happens. I also read The Study of Seduction by Sabrina Jeffries – a good Regency romance! It dealt with little-discussed issues in that genre, so I appreciated the different plot it brought to the table.

Summer is Flying By…

And how has your summer been, lovely readers? It seems impossible that it’s already July, and yet, here we are! Johnna has been ridiculously busy with school, her job and her family, so I’ve been trying hold down the fort here on the blog until she’s got time on her side again! In the meantime, here’s how my summer has been going, how about yours?

I’ve been…growing flowers…enduring summer stories…cooking…reading (and eating!)…welcoming visitors to my porch (hello, Mr. Froggy!)…turning back into a redhead…celebrating the 4th of July with Johnna (aren’t these glasses she got us a kick?!)…and appreciating the kind of friends who bust your dog out of puppy jail (uh, the kennel) while you’re gone (thanks, Johnna and Scott!)

–Marissa

All Byyyyy Myseeeelllllffff….

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Other than a cabin for a couple of days all alone, I’ve never gone on vacation solo.

I’ve never been opposed to it since I’m comfortable with my own company, but it’s always nice to have a buddy along, yeah?

But recently, the opportunity presented itself for an only-me vacation, and y’all…it was the BEST THING EVER.

If you are going to vacation alone, I highly recommend…Disneyworld. *grin*

I had to be in Orlando for a work conference, and I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to spend a few days at Magic Kingdom and Epcot just because I was alone, so off I went!

I opted to do the “all in one” thing – Disney resort, food package, transportation and tickets – which made it super easy, and with the help of Uber, I was able to zip from conference hotel to “vacation” hotel in a snap!

I spent a couple of days at Magic Kingdom and one at Epcot, and y’all, it was AMAZING.

I rode whatever I wanted to ride, I ate when and what I wanted, I rested when I needed, I popped back to the hotel if I felt like it, I got a henna tattoo for the hell of it, and while I was waiting in line? I read a book.

(Bliss!)

No one made me feel like a doofus for being there alone, and I even got to line jump a few times as a single rider! Lots of folks struck up conversation with me, I had room to spread out on the rides, I requested the front seat on Space Mountain (because, uh, it’s the best, and I was a single rider!), and every employee just smiled when I said “one” to their “how many?” instead of looking at me like I was some friendless spinster. *grin*

Such a great holiday!

40th Birthday Celebration

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So, I had a milestone of a birthday back in May – and to be honest, I was having a hard time with it.

40.

It sounds so adult and grown up and like you should have your act together, right?

(I don’t.)

Johnna knew I was struggling with my impending birthday, and so, doing what she does best, she turned it from something to dread to a memory I’ll remember my entire life.

She threw me a surprise party, complete with all my “framily” from near and far – everyone from college friends to TinyTown friends to my bestie (and her mum!) since I was four years old, all gathered together in one place.

It was…magic.

Seeing all my people talk and laugh and figure out who was who made my heart so happy.

Johnna also let me mark something off my bucket list (the list is a post for another day!)…having a “pop up dinner” by candlelight outside…

Truly magic.

Gorgeous flowers, a beautiful cake, hilarious games, gifts and memories, dinner and conversation with all my favorite people…truly a glorious surprise.

I’m a lucky sausage indeed.

–Marissa

Women’s Fiction Reads


I’ve been on a reading tear lately, with a mix of advanced titles from my recent library convention, an updated take on Shakespeare, and a discussion-worthy title for my book discussion. Let’s go!

–Marissa

Light of Paris by Eleanor Brown was just…immensely satisfying. I adored Brown’s first title, The Weird Sisters, so I was eager to snap this advanced copy up at ALA, and it did not disappoint. This tells parallel stories – Madeleine’s marriage is strained, so she returns home, and in so doing, finds journals belonging to her grandmother. The journals Margie left behind are from her time spent in Paris in 1924, where she found love, art, independence and freedom. So how did she end up the grandmother Madeleine remembered? I love the alternating time periods and voices, and Brown’s prose is just lovely and cozy and embracing. I devoured this novel, utterly transported to lovely, enchanting Paris. Highly recommended!

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah continued the French theme, and was our recent pick for our library book discussion – and we had a LOT to discuss! Isabelle and Vianne are French sisters who are caught up in World War II in very different ways – one as a rescuer of downed airmen, and the other as a mother trapped in a house billeted by a Nazi officer. There is SO MUCH in this book that makes you think, empathize, cringe, rejoice and devour – we had a lively discussion, and the consensus was that everyone LOVED this book. If you love a smart, woman-driven historical novel, definitely check this one out!

Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler is the latest entry in the Hogarth Shakespeare Project, where modern superstar authors are adapting a Shakespearean play into today – and Tyler chose Taming the Shrew. This slim novel is full of snappy sarcasm, engaging characters, and echoes of the original play without being too literal. Great fun!

I also got an advanced copy of Falling by Jane Green, and it’s…disappointing. I normally like Green’s work, but this romance is a bit…recycled. I feel like it’s been cobbled together from every other trite romance out there, and not very well. I really struggled just to finish it. Bummer.:-/

Latest Winning Reads


I’ve been known to getting into “reading ruts”, where nothing is ringing my bell, and every book is just “wrong book, wrong time”.

This is not one of those times.๐Ÿ™‚

I’ve been reading like crazy lately, and some really great titles! Let’s go!

–Marissa

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley has been getting a lot of praise, and with good reason! A plane takes off from Martha’s Vineyard with 11 people on board…18 minutes later, it crashes into the ocean, and only two people survive. What brought down the plane? Why did they survive? Who were these people on the plane? Each chapter is told from the viewpoint of a different character, and I was powering through to get to the ending to see…what happened?! This is a well written, suspenseful, character-driven read!

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald is not a title I would normally pick up, but my word, it’s gotten SO MUCH press and praise, I had to check it out. This memoir is about Helen’s decision to train a goshawk (which are notoriously difficult to train) in the wake of her beloved father’s death. This memoir is beautifully written, and I learned so much about hawks, hawking, and our relationship with animals, as well as about Helen’s quiet grief. I’m glad I read it!

A Scot in the Dark by Sarah MacLean wasย an advanced reader copy I *had* to have from our recent national library conference! MacLean has written another winner (of course!) for the Regency bookshelf. A scandalous painting, a disgraced ward, and a Scot from the north with no patience for anything English – of course, sparks and verbal sparring ensue.๐Ÿ˜‰ MacLean writes with such humor, detail, and develops such interesting characters – I love everything she writes! Highly recommended – along with her other series!

I also read a couple of Cara McKenna novels whilst on vacation: Unbound and After Hours. Smexy and smouldery!

 

Summertime is Reading Time


Some people don’t read much in the summer – they are busy going here and there, spending time outside, catching a tan, and so forth.

I hate heat, I hate sweating, I hate summer….so I stay inside a lot. And read.๐Ÿ™‚

Here is what’s caught my attention lately….

–Marissa

All the Time in the World by Caroline Angell was a review copy from the lovely folks at FSB Associaties, and is being pitched to folks who enjoy JoJo Moyes or Jonathan Tropper (both of whom I LOVE)! Charlotte is a nanny to an upscale family in New York City, having set aside her dreams of becoming a composer. When tragedy strikes (which was so incredibly predictable), Charlotte must decide how to proceed in helping the family to whom she has become so attached. I didn’t see any echoes of the wit or plotting of Moyes or Tropper, but the story was fine enough…IF you enjoy endless conversations between youngsters and nannies, which is what about 80% of this book is. Yes, it tried to capture that coming-of-age feel, but with disjointed stories about betrayal (uh, what?), totally unconvincing romantic possibilities, growing up, and lots and LOTS of nannying, I just wasn’t feeling it. This novel, for me, lacked the humor of The Nanny Diaries, and the emotional investment of Me Before You; it just…is. I did enjoy the way the author played with the timeline of the novel, forcing the reader to be nimble in figuring out where we are in the story, but otherwise, this one left me pretty disappointed, because with the plot, it could have been GREAT. I wanted to like it so much more than I did…

Grunt by Mary Roach is her latest foray into uncovering science in unusual places – this time, in our military. Roach fearlessly tackles sexy topics like diarrhea, bugs, uniforms and BASH (Bird Aircraft Strike Hazard). I adore Roach in all her dorkiness in covering these stories, interviewing folks, and making science reading fascinating, funny and endlessly informative. Each chapter tackles a different topic, and this is not the type of book you read start to finish – instead, reading a chapter here and there. Roach is approachable, readable, hilarious and I love the way she inserts herself into the story, even though it’s nonfiction. Anything by Roach is a gem – pick one out and get to reading!

The Perfect Neighbors by Sarah Pekkanen was a review copy from Engelman & Company – Pekkanen is always a solid recommendation for reader’s of smart women’s fiction and is popular around my library. This time, Pekkanen takes us to idyllic Newport Cove, one of the safest communities in America…where everyone has a secret. Emotional infidelity, Congressional races, remarriage, and a new couple to the neighborhood who have the biggest secret of all round out the story. I always enjoy Pekkanen – she’s easy to read, has realistic female characters, and moves things along…but this one felt a little empty for me. I’m afraid that in a few weeks, if you ask me about the characters or the secrets, I won’t remember any of them! That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it – I did! – it just didn’t “stick” with me the way some of her earlier works have. I DID love the “neighborhood listserv” that opened every chapter, which brought great humor and “small town feel” to the novel! Pekkanen is easy to recommend to readers in my library, and this one is no different for folks looking for a read-alike for Liane Moriarty or Emily Giffin.

I also read Nookietown by VC Chickering, which had a fantastic premise but didn’t hold up for me (it just got a bit too twee, and had entirely too many female characters floating around), as well as Hopeless by Colleen Hoover, who ALWAYS seems to stretch the bonds of plausibility to the breaking point – is that really what New Adult fiction is about? I think we can do better….